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Aluminum prices surge to highest level since 2011 as US sanctions on Russia take out big producer

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A worker loads a liquid electrolyte into the electrolysis bath at the Krasnoyarsk aluminum smelter, operated by United Co. Rusal, in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images 

A worker loads a liquid electrolyte into the electrolysis bath at the Krasnoyarsk aluminum smelter, operated by United Co. Rusal, in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Aluminum prices surged to their highest level in six years on Monday, extending a recent rally that follows the U.S. sanctioning of Russian aluminum giant Rusal.

The metal traded as high as $2,403 per ton on the London Metal Exchange, before holding more than 4 percent higher at 2,379.

On April 6, the U.S. slapped sanctions on several Russian oligarchs, officials, businesses and agencies, including Rusal. The sanctions freeze all of Rusal’s assets that are under U.S. jurisdiction.

Rusal — which saw its stock hit a record low on Monday — is one of the largest aluminum producers in the world. The company’s collapse has the potential to take a large chunk of aluminum supply from the market. In fact, Rio Tinto — one of the largest mining companies in the world — said Friday it would declare force majeure on some of its contracts with Rusal.

“The main thing that has been a catalyst behind aluminium has been the issues around the sanctions against Rusal which will make the market tighter,” ETF Securities analyst Nitesh Shah told Reuters. “In addition to that is the weaker dollar and the general upside for industrial metals in recent days that is working in aluminium’s favor.”

Aluminum’s surge comes more than a month after President Donald Trump slapped a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports to the U.S.

Trump bragged the tariffs were not having a negative effect on the U.S. economy.

He said in an April 6 tweet: “Despite the Aluminum Tariffs, Aluminum prices are DOWN 4%. People are surprised, I’m not! Lots of money coming into U.S. coffers and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!”

Aluminum prices were down for the year when Trump sent his tweet. However, prices have skyrocketed more than 20 percent since the U.S. unveiled sanctions against Russia.

The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that Trump walked back a comment made by U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley about additional sanctions being implemented, noting he was not yet comfortable taking that course of action. Haley said Sunday new sanctions on Russian entities would be announced Monday.



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Where are you expecting from corporate results?

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on July 12, 2018 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images 

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on July 12, 2018 in New York City.

All eyes will be on corporate earnings this week as earnings season shifts into high gear.

Netflix is among the corporates that will lead the week’s earnings announcements, with the streaming giant slated to report on Monday after the market close. Also on the earnings calendar for the week are a slew of major banking and technology names, including Goldman Sachs, IBM and Microsoft.

All told, around 60 S&P 500 companies are due to report results this week.

Bank stocks declined on Friday after several large banks reported a set of mixed earnings for the second quarter: J.P. Morgan beat on both the top and bottom line while Citigroup topped profit forecasts, but missed on the revenue front.

On the whole, however, earnings growth in the second quarter is expected to come in at 20 percent, according to a FactSet poll.

All of that also comes against the backdrop of elevated trade tensions between the U.S. and China, with U.S. tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese products having taken effect earlier this month. Chinese tariffs on the same amount of U.S. goods are also currently in place.



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At Uber, New Questions Arise About Executive Behavior

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A number of Uber employees have allegedly filed complaints against Uber's chief operating officer, Barney Harford, for insensitive comments regarding women and minorities.

Vipin Kumar | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

A number of Uber employees have allegedly filed complaints against Uber’s chief operating officer, Barney Harford, for insensitive comments regarding women and minorities.

On a conference call this spring with colleagues, Mr. Harford, the company’s chief operating officer, critiqued a new ad that showed a mixed-race couple, said five people familiar with the conversation. He debated aloud how common the pairing was among the audiences that would see it. He also said he found parts of the ad’s early cut confusing, mixing up two black women in the video because they had similar hairstyles, said the people, who declined to be identified because they have signed nondisclosure agreements.

Though Mr. Harford later told colleagues that he regretted his phrasing, his comments struck many on the call as insensitive about race. They said it was part of a pattern by Mr. Harford in which he talked about women or minorities.

They said Uber employees had since filed several informal and formal complaints to the human resources department, the head of diversity and other top executives about Mr. Harford’s behavior. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, was also notified and has addressed the matter directly with Mr. Harford, two Uber employees said.

The conduct is surfacing as Uber has been trying to turn itself around after a tumultuous 2017. The company was rocked last year by accusations of gender discrimination and harassment in its workplace, as well as other issues, ultimately leading to the ouster of the chief executive at the time, Travis Kalanick. After Mr. Khosrowshahi replaced him last fall, Uber pledged to follow a philosophy of being kinder and gentler and to reform itself.

Mr. Harford’s behavior shows how new workplace problems continue to crop up at Uber amid scrutiny of whether its corporate culture is changing. While Mr. Khosrowshahi has made many adjustments to the company in recent months and employees have said Uber has stabilized, internal issues — particularly around diversity — persist.

Mr. Harford, 46, who has been meeting more frequently with Uber’s chief diversity officer, has committed to Mr. Khosrowshahi that he will improve his “blind spots” and undergo coaching, Uber executives said.



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Fed’s Powell says economy is in ‘good place’ but tariffs could change that

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Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy is “in a good place,” but that an escalation in tariffs between the United States and trading partners could affect that success.

“I think, frankly the United States economy is in a good place from a cyclical standpoint close to our maximum employment and stable prices target,” Powell told Marketplace in an interview published Thursday.

The U.S. economy added 213,000 jobs during the month of June, according to the government’s latest employment report that published Friday. While the strong payroll numbers beat expectations and hinted at continued tightness in the labor market, wage gains across the country remain comparatively sluggish.

The Fed Chairman’s comments also came as the U.S. seeks to ramp up pressure on China to address a prolonged trade deficit and intellectual property abuses, a phenomenon some have worried could hamper domestic or global economic growth.

The Trump administration on Tuesday released a list of 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, making good on the president’s recent threats to escalate a broadening trade war with Beijing.

“The administration says that what it’s trying to achieve is lower tariffs. So if it works out that way, then that’ll be a good thing for our economy,” he added. “If it works out other ways, so that we wind up having high tariffs on a lot of products and a lot of traded goods and services, let’s say, and that they become sustained for a long period of time, then yes, that could be be a negative for our economy.”



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